In response to criticisms hurled at organized teachers' unions by a local businessman, Utah Education Association leader Lowell Baum is calling the lack of understanding between business and education leaders the most serious problem in improving Utah's economy.
"The business community and schools should be working together to improve the state's economy, not throwing rocks at each other," Baum said Thursday."It's difficult to have good schools without high teacher morale, but somehow Utah teachers have been managing it. However, it gets even tougher when industrial leaders make sweeping remarks that disparage teachers."
He asks that Joseph Rosenblatt, chairman of the Utah Industrial Council, apologize for his accusations that the "self-centeredness" of organized teacher unions protects "dismal and incompetent teachers."
Rosenblatt lambasted the self-serving tactics of unions in an address to the Salt Lake Rotary Club Tuesday. He urged Utahns to insist that lawmakers pass laws demanding accountability of school administrators and teachers.
"The dogma of teachers' unions uses seniority as the only measure of a teacher's worth. The unions' goals are uniform mediocrity," Rosenblatt told businessmen.
Baum said the UEA agrees with Rosenblatt on the need for accountability.
"The record shows that UEA's 15,000 members - most of them teachers - want accountability in the schools.
"UEA campaigned successfully for three years to get a teacher and administrator evaluation law on the books and we believe that's accountability," said Baum.
The UEA leader is particularly offended by Rosenblatt's statement that there are thousands of poor teachers in Utah.
Teachers who belong to the teachers' union agree that poor teachers would not be allowed to teach. "The public doesn't want incompetent teachers in the classroom; students don't want them; and other teachers don't want them," he said.
The timing of Rosenblatt's criticism was particularly insensitive because only days before his statement, the Carnegie Foundation reported that Utah teacher morale is lower than all other states but one, said Baum.
"Apparently some persons in Utah business and industry don't understand the crucial need for good schools in attracting businesses and industry to this state," Baum said.
Utah businessmen could learn a lesson from Tennessee businessmen who recently published a full-page advertisement congratulating the Teacher of the Year, he said.